For the last three years South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington has also been a member of the football team, and the fact of the matter is that he was pretty good for Steve Spurrier’s program. This season Ellington led the team in receptions (49), resulting in 775 yards and eight receiving touchdowns, and in three seasons his 16 touchdown receptions rank seventh on the school’s all-time list.
With his accomplishments on the football field and a college degree he completed last month, Ellington has decided to forego his final season of football eligibility to enter the 2014 NFL Draft. So what does any of this have to do with the basketball program? The news also means that he won’t be returning to the program as he did after each of the prior two football seasons.
“I would like to thank Coach Spurrier, Coach Horn and Coach Martin for giving me the opportunity to play both football and basketball at South Carolina,” Ellington said in the school release. “I also want to thank all the Gamecock fans and my teammates for the past four years in Columbia. It’s been a great experience and I’ve been truly blessed.”
In three-plus seasons as a basketball player Ellington averaged 11.2 points, 3.0 assists and 2.7 rebounds per game for South Carolina. In three games this season, playing for Frank Martin’s team while the football team was off prior to beginning practices for its bowl game, Ellington averaged 5.7 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Given how young the Gamecocks are it would have been nice to add an experienced voice to the rotation in SEC play. But they’ve played nine of their 12 games without Ellington, and one can’t fault him for pursuing his dream with a college degree in hand.
The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 10.3 points per game, while shooting 42 percent from three, as a freshman. He, along with Malcolm Hill and Michael Thorne Jr., is one of three returning players who averaged double figures last season.
This could prove to be a make-or-break year for John Groce, who enters his fifth season at the helm. He guided the Illini to an NCAA Tournament in his first season, but hasn’t been back since.
The key for the Illini is health. Abrams gives them experience and leadership, but it won’t be a surprise if there’s some rust in his game after spending the past two seasons on the sideline. Having a healthy Coleman-Lands will help stabilize the backcourt, while Hill, an all-conference caliber forward, and Thorne anchor the frontcourt.
Like Alkins, Jones was a sought-after scorer. The 6-foot-4 two-guard was rated No. 69 overall in the Class of 2016 by Rivals. He picked Indiana over offers from Cal, Cincinnati, Georgetown and more than a dozen other high-major programs.
Jeter, the 6-foot-10, played in a reserve role as a freshman, averaging 1.9 points and 1.9 rebounds per game last season. He will be part of a loaded frontline that includes heralded freshmen Harry Giles and Marques Bolden, as well as redshirt senior Amile Jefferson, who returns to the lineup following a foot injury.
The greatest player in Auburn program history will honored with a statue outside of the team’s home arena.
The university announced that Charles Barkley, the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, will be the fourth athlete to be given a statue, joining Heisman Trophy winners Bo Jackson, Pat Sullivan and Cam Newton.
“It just means a great deal to me,” Barkley said in a statement. “Being a kid from Alabama, going to Auburn. I think everybody knows what Auburn means to me. It’s going to be pretty cool.”
Barkley, currently working as an analyst for TNT, was the SEC Player of the Year in 1984, as well as a second team All-American. He averaged 14.1 points and 9.6 rebounds per game in 84 appearances for the Tigers.